The Chancellor makes some good points in this article, but he does seem to paint an idealistic picture of working in the City which does not necessarily reflect reality.
The Chancellor is right that we are social beings, and we all miss even the minor interactions we used to have with colleagues in the office, but does that really mean we will be going back to the office full time and resuming our working lives as they once were? The Chancellor has pointed out that 75% of investment banks would let their staff work from home at least some of the time – I find that figure surprising (although I do not think this is representative of most sectors as investment banking is somewhat unique in its working style). I too am missing the buzz of central London, that ‘spark’ of creativity the office brings, and after work dinners and drinks with friends. But are we all really ready to give up the liberties working from home provides?
It is a question for employers, too. The prospect of paying (often astronomical) overheads for prime London real estate only to have some of the workforce actually use that space is by no means a tempting one and is perhaps enough for some to close their premises altogether. Some employers may even find that their staff are even more productive when they are at home because a better work/life balance should go some way to preventing the ‘burn out’ which some London employers have historically struggled to prevent.
I do not think that most London office workers will ever fully return to the office. Instead, I think we will see a new ‘hybrid’ way of working emerge which can take the best of our traditional working habits and of working from home. What that will actually look like, we simply do not know.
Widespread full-time working from home will not become a permanent fixture of the UK economy and central London is destined to come back to life post-Covid, according to Rishi Sunak.